12 leadership principles

When it comes to the topic of effective leadership, one common misconception is that “Leaders are born”. Yet, empirical evidence has suggested that it is a skill that can be cultivated and refined through practice and continuous efforts to change behavior. For those who aspire to ascend the ranks of management, we have compiled a list of 12 leadership principles that should serve as invaluable guiding beacons on your transformative journey.

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What are Leadership Principles?

Leadership principles encompass a collection of actions and foundational beliefs that leaders must adeptly apply to achieve success in their respective roles. Without these attributes, one is unlikely to be suited for taking on the responsibility of managing a team.

The concept stems from the notion that proficient leadership necessitates a uniform methodology in guiding others, irrespective of the context or conditions. Over time, it has been proven that there exists a strong correlation between the performance of an organization and the adeptness of its leaders in inspiring and directing their workforce.

When it comes to the basic principles of leadership, common examples that are often mentioned include authenticity, leading by example, empathy, and so forth.

Why Leadership Principles are Important

Leadership principles help establish a comprehensive framework for proficient leadership – they serve as navigational beacons that enable leaders to maintain unwavering focus on their objectives, exercise astute judgment, and cultivate robust relationships with their team constituents:

  • Guiding decision-making: A set of principles offer a guiding compass, steering leaders toward choices that harmonize with their core values and overarching objectives. They act as a bulwark against impulsive or hasty decisions, ensuring a trajectory that is consistent with one’s vision.
  • Facilitating the realization of goals: By adhering to established dogmas, leaders can chart a course that remains aligned with strategic targets, engendering a sense of purpose within the team.
  • Promoting consistency: Embracing a set of core values engenders a sense of consistency in a leader’s behavior – which helps nurture an environment of trust and confidence among team members.
  • Augmenting personal skills: By encouraging diverse perspectives, adept problem-solving, and a resolute focus on results, leaders may cultivate attributes such as critical thinking, adaptability, and innovation. This, in turn, promotes a culture of continuous learning and professional growth, exemplified through coaching, mentoring, and targeted training initiatives.
  • Fostering accountability: When leaders are held answerable to their guiding tenets, they are more inclined to embrace ownership of their actions, thereby fostering an ethos of responsibility and transparency.
  • Inspiring others: Those who exhibit self disciplines serve as a beacon that inspires others to emulate similar principles in their own endeavors. This inspirational effect generates a sense of motivation and productivity within the team, amplifying overall effectiveness.
  • Building trust and rapport: The practice of leadership principles contributes to the establishment of trust and rapport between leaders and their team members. By consistently upholding these principles, one demonstrates their commitment to ethical conduct and equitable treatment, thereby nurturing an environment of mutual respect and collaboration.
  • Boosting credibility and influence: Through leading by example, assuming accountability, and exhibiting unwavering integrity, leaders showcase their competency and character, garnering the admiration and allegiance of their followers. Furthermore, adept communication, stakeholder engagement, and value delivery bolster leaders’ reputation and amplify their sphere of impact.

Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.

John C. Maxwell

leadership principles

How are Leadership Traits, Skills, and Principles Related to Effective Leadership?

Effective leadership hinges on a delicate interplay between traits, skills, and principles – all of which constitute pivotal components in the realm of successful management.

  • Leadership traits encompass an array of personal attributes inherent to a leader’s character, encompassing attributes such as integrity, accountability, empathy, humility, resilience, visionary thinking, influential prowess, and a positive outlook. These qualities serve as an extension of the leader’s persona, encapsulating their values and demeanor, thereby profoundly influencing their interactions with others.
  • Leadership skills constitute a repertoire of proficiencies and competencies that empower a leader to adeptly fulfill their role. Such skills encompass proficiencies like effective communication, astute problem-solving, judicious decision-making, delegation finesse, motivational prowess, and constructive feedback acumen. They empower leaders to seamlessly execute their duties, fulfill responsibilities, and traverse the path toward achieving predetermined goals and objectives.
  • Leadership principles, in turn, embody a set of actionable tenets or deeply-held convictions which leaders adhere to in order to efficiently guide their charges. These guiding core values furnish a scaffold for a leader’s conduct and choices, harmoniously aligning with the interests of stakeholders.

In other words, leadership traits serve as the bedrock upon which the edifice of leadership is erected, with skills and principles forging the mold that ultimately shapes a leader’s demeanor and interactions.

12 Golden Leadership Principles

One common question often asked by aspiring leaders is “How many principles of leadership are there?“. While there is no single hard-and-fast answer, certain tenets do serve as an invaluable toolkit for one on the journey to perform better in their management roles. Here, we have compiled a list of 12 principles to successful leadership:

12 principles of leadership

12 principles of leadership and management

  1. Attaining clarity

The first and most important leadership principle is clarity of purpose. What do you aim to accomplish? What objectives do you set forth for your team or organization? Lack of self-awareness makes us susceptible to conforming to the desires and anticipations of others – thereby constituting a fundamental underpinning of setbacks in both professional endeavors and personal life.

Distinguished leaders dedicate the time to meticulously delineate their value system, vision, mission, purpose, strategy, priorities, strengths, and passions across all aspects. Proficiency in communication empowers them to cogently and effectively articulate their stance to diverse audiences.

To unravel the tapestry of your leadership purpose, consider the following questions:

  • What are the core tenets of my value system?
  • What convictions underscore my ethos?
  • What kind of leader do I want to be?
  • What are the targets I set for my team or organization?
  • What are the challenges and opportunities that await my team?


  1. Demonstrating a spirit of collaboration

An outstanding leader is one who ardently endeavors to unify the team’s disparate members under a shared vision, values, and objectives. They ardently contribute to the cultivation of a culture steeped in positive and harmonious cooperation.

By adroitly recruiting and retaining top-tier talents, they shoulder the responsibility of nurturing participative leadership, fueling employee engagement, and expanding strategic alliances.


  1. Developing self-mastery

In the realm of leadership, an unceasing cultivation of profound self-control is imperative, both in actions and interactions. Leaders are entrusted with upholding a resolute positive outlook, coupled with an unwavering readiness to shoulder responsibility and prioritize collective objectives over personal interests.

Whatever actions, thoughts, or expressions you exhibit, make sure that they are authentic and reflect what you REALLY mean. Every time you need to engage in decision making, do it with intrinsic conviction – instead of letting yourself impacted by external coercion.

leadership principles self mastery

Leadership principles for excellence

  1. Upholding unwavering ethics

Honesty and integrity are essential qualities for leaders. In order to truly build trust, one must constantly strive to demonstrate their commitment to ethics and humility.

Whenever you make a promise, do your best to keep it. Be thoughtful and deliberate in your decision-making, and always act with integrity.


  1. Pursuing lifelong learning

Exemplary leaders orchestrate an unceasing quest to elevate their expertise and personal proficiencies – which can be observed through ceaseless reading, attentive listening, incisive inquiry, and the relentless pursuit of learning opportunities. They diligently endeavor to attain a state of mastery within their domain, eagerly embracing avenues for refining their methodologies. This spirit of perpetual enhancement permeates not only their own journey – but cascades down to nurture the growth of their subordinates.

lifelong learning

  1. Exhibiting a competitive spirit

Leaders, unlike the ordinary, harbor an innate drive for excellence and relentless determination to attain pinnacles of achievement. This ardor manifests in their concerted endeavors to present superior products and services across a multifaceted market landscape. Their unwavering customer-centric focus and strategic acumen empower them to construct and sustain a formidable competitive advantage, thereby establishing a distinct foothold in the competitive arena.

principles of leadership competitive spirit

Sticking to leadership principles

  1. Nurturing innovation

Exemplary leaders dedicate a substantial portion of their time to exploring new solutions to prevailing challenges. The capacity to adeptly navigate these obstacles stands as a pivotal factor in shaping their professional trajectory.

Compared to people who possess robust creative thinking prowess, those who struggle with creativity may find it considerably more challenging to ascend to managerial echelons.


  1. Being courageous in thoughts and actions

Among the plethora of leadership attributes, the virtues of vision and courage stand as indispensable ones. Leaders manifest courage through assertiveness, embracing adversity, and venturing beyond the confines of their comfort zone. When circumstances dictate, they exhibit resolute resolve in making arduous decisions – and assuming the calculated risks entailed therein.

leadership courage

  1. Caring about people

Do to others as you would have them do to you.

Luke 6:31

A fundamental principle of leadership is to realize the paramount significance of people within an organization. This necessitates an affable, gracious, and empathetic demeanor that galvanizes the best from each team member. Successful leaders are known for epitomizing the ethos of servant leadership, eliciting transformation through compassionate, genuine, and wholehearted guidance, thereby fostering the enrichment of others.

caring about people

  1. Learning to manage changes

In the current VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) business landscape, change is an inexorable facet often shrouded in unpredictability. The measure of one’s adeptness and resilience in confronting these transitions – both within the professional and personal domains – profoundly influences not only their capacity to contribute, but also the intrinsic value they may offer to the organization.

change management

  1. Setting priorities

An equally momentous tenet of leadership entails judicious time management. Exceptional leaders conscientiously set well-defined priorities governing the allocation of their temporal and material resources, channeling an unwavering focus toward individual tasks. Harnessing the potency of focused concentration, they align their actions in accordance with appropriateness and leverage their personal strengths as the fulcrum for enduring triumph.

Setting priorities

  1. Doing everything with wholehearted dedication

As a leader, a steadfast commitment to the realization of your team’s goals and accomplishments is a must. A heightened sense of responsibility – coupled with an unwavering determination to yield results – constitutes a cornerstone of leadership. Through this commitment, the latent potential of individuals and collectives is nurtured, flourishing to fruition.


How to Develop Leadership Principles

The development of leadership principles is a nuanced journey, encompassing the exploration and articulation of one’s values, convictions, and conduct as a leader. To embark on this transformative journey, you may consider the following steps:

Your leadership style encapsulates your distinct approach to engaging and collaborating with others as a leader. It is a reflection of your personality, strengths, limitations, and inclinations.

When it comes to personal branding, there are a lot of options to choose from – including democratic, autocratic, transformational, transactional, servant, and situational. To unearth your predominant leadership identity and its impact on your performance, you may consider partaking in online assessments or soliciting feedback from peers and subordinates.

  • Think about how you work currently

The next step is to attain a comprehensive grasp of your present circumstances and prevailing challenges. This entails introspective exploration through questions such as:

-What are the pivotal objectives and aspirations of your leadership?

-How do the expectations and exigencies of your followers and stakeholders resonate?

-What tenets and ethos define your organization’s culture and values?

-How is your mode of communication and collaborative engagement orchestrated?

  • Decide on what you want your future to be

The formulation of your leadership principles necessitates an unwavering gaze into the horizon of your aspirational journey. What are your long-term aspirations? What are the opportunities and threats in your environment? What are the changes and trends in your industry? How do you want to grow and develop yourself and others? And how do you want to make a positive impact on your organization and society?

  • Write down your own principles

After reflecting on your current and future state, you can write down a list of dogmas that define who you are as a leader – and how you want to lead. These tenets should be concise, specific, and actionable statements that reflect your values, beliefs, and actions. Examples: Customer Orientation, Ownership, Invent and Simplify, Curiosity, etc.

Once you have finished your own list, be consistent with practicing them. Live by your principles in every day-to-day interaction with your team members – so that you may foster trust and build credibility within the team.

  • Review & Revise

Remember, your leadership styles are subject to adapting and expanding in tandem with your learning curve and feedback loop. For this reason, you should review and revise them regularly to ensure that they are relevant and effective for your situation.

Additionally, soliciting feedback from others will further aid you on your professional journey. You can talk with your peers and accountability partners, or engage in dialogues with seasoned coaches and mentors.

Read more: Leadership Feedback – The Key to Changing for the Better

Final Thoughts

The 12 golden leadership principles outlined in this article are essential for any leader who aspires to achieve excellence and reach greater heights in their professional ladder. By striving to live by these tenets, you are better equipped to perform in management roles – and make a positive impact on the people and organizations you lead.

Compiled based on the key disciplines discussed in the publication “12 Disciplines of Leadership Excellence” – by Dr. Peter Chee and Brian Tracy.

12 Disciplines of Leadership Excellence

Other resources you might be interested in:

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